Vignettes about Mayan womanhood take the stage in Toronto as part of the 2018 RUTAS Festival
Del Manantial del Corazón (From the Spring of the Heart), by Mexico’s Sa’as Tún Theatre Company, is a collection of vignettes about Mayan womanhood that transcends the theatrical into spiritual connection. On at Aki Studio for the 2018 RUTAS Festival, the play highlights women and Indigenous tradition by fostering deep reverence for birth, death, and the balms of ritual and community.
Based on testimony collected by director and star Conchi León from women in Indigenous villages across the state of Yucatán, Del Manantial del Corazón builds a collective feminine worldview that is heavy on resilience and religious faith, setting up an epic struggle to marry the two when there’s no better explanation to grab onto.
This worldview is gotten across by four women at church, all long-time neighbours, who tell of the directions their lives decided to take whether they liked it or not. That the play begins with their pew-side gossip is a smart move as it makes everyone relatable, shameless in their judgements and the trust they place in each other by not bothering to hide them. They instill trust in the audience as they lead us through the stories of violence, addiction, and superstitious ignorance to come.
Actors Conchi León, Addy Teyer, Lourdes León, and Randia Escalante rope you in with subtle magnetism born from their ability to savor every gesture and emotion as it happens. There comes a moment when enough incense sticks and candles have been lit, and prayers have been said, and traumas have been shared, and songs have been sung, that we are no longer merely being entertained but reminded that we are not alone. This is the mark of vital theatre.
Interactivity is what ties the strengths of Del Manantial del Corazón together. From tossing seeds into the air to bless the beginning of a child’s life, to being showered with the mist from the crack of a wet whip or flower petals strewn in a fit of rage, the audience has ample opportunities to eschew the fourth wall and show their personalities. The show is as much shared ceremony as staged performance.
One standout interaction is the ceremony of Hetzmek, the Mayan version of baptism. This involves the cast asking nine people from the audience to present a baby, also picked from the audience, with one of their personal belongings. Participants are tasked with explaining to the baby how their gift will contribute to its life, and their words are as disarming as one might become when suddenly granted quality time with a one-year-old.
My guest, Veronica, felt that participating in Hetzmek reminded her that no one is really a stranger when it comes to making it through life. Though she struggled somewhat during the brief moments without English surtitles, the opportunity to tap into a foreign lineage of femininity was more than worth it.
Every performance of Del Manantial del Corazón is a unique experience shared only by those present. Its characters, driven by a need to believe in something greater than the cruelty-prone world, question that premise outright by sharing their faults with unapologetic vulnerability. Conchi León, already renowned in Mexico, has made an indelible impact with this Canadian premiere, one that will hopefully see her back with new work soon.
- Del Manantial del Corazón is playing October 3-7, 2018 at AKI Studio (585 Dundas Street East)
- Shows run Wednesday and Saturday at 7pm, Thursday at 8:30pm, and Sunday at 2:30pm.
- Ticket prices range from $20 – $25 and are available online, by phone at 416-531-1402, or in person at the box office.
- The show is in Spanish with English surtitles.
Photo of Conchi León provided by Sa’as Tún Theatre Company.